Early Pleistocene glacial outwash deposits in the eastern San Joaquin Valley, California: a model for humid-region alluvial fans



    1. Woodward-Clyde Consultants, 1 Walnut Center, 100 Pringle Avenue, Walnut Creek, California 94596, U.S.A.
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      Remote Sensing and Special Projects Department, Cities Service Company, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74102, U.S.A.



The early Pleistocene Laguna and Turlock Lake Formations and China Hat and Arroyo Seco Gravels along the east side of the San Joaquin Valley, California, were deposited in alluvial fans and marginal lakes. Upward-coarsening sequences of silt-sand-gravel record westward progradation of glacial outwash fans from the Sierra Nevada into proglacial lakes in the San Joaquin Valley. Distinctive sedimentary features delineate lacustrine, prodelta, and delta-front facies within fan-margin deposits and lower, middle, and upper-fan facies within alluvial-fan deposits.

The lacustrine facies consists of a few metres of thinly and evenly bedded, rhythmically laminated claystone and clayey siltstone in varved couplets. Draped lamination, sinusoidal lamination, and load and pillar structures occur in some beds. Siltstone and claystone grade upward to slightly thicker wavy beds of siltstone and very fine-grained unconsolidated sand deposited in a prodelta setting. Convolute laminae within deformed steeply dipping foreset beds suggest slumping on the prodelta slope. The prodelta facies grades up to the delta-front facies, which consists of burrowed and bioturbated cross-bedded fine sand. Deltaic deposits are 5–6 m thick.

The lower-fan facies forms the base of the fan sequence and consists of several metres of irregularly bedded, laminated, oxidized siltstone and fine sand. The middle-fan facies consists of cross-bedded, medium-grained to gravelly sand-filled channels cut into the lower-fan facies. Interbedded lens-shaped siltstone beds 2 m thick and several metres across were deposited in abandoned channels. The upper-fan facies consists of moderately to strongly weathered clayey gravel and sand containing pebble imbrication and crude stratification. Argillization during post-depositional soil formation has blurred the distinction between mud-supported debris-flow deposits and clast-supported channel deposits, but both are present in this facies.

The deposits described here demonstrate the need for additional fan models in order to incorporate the variety of deposits developed in alluvial fan sequences deposited in humid climates. In previous models based on arctic fans, debris flows, abandoned channels, or widespread siltstone beds are not present in fan sequences, nor are marginal lacustrine and deltaic deposits well represented.